John Clare 1793-1864
John Clare, our most remarkable poet of the English countryside, was born in the village of Helpston, Northamptonshire and raised as an agricultural labourer.
Clare’s genius was his ability to observe and record the minutiae of English nature and every aspect rural life, at a time when enclosures were transforming the landscape and sweeping away centuries of traditional custom and labour.
Following great success with his first published poems (outselling even John Keats) Clare quickly became unfashionable, falling quickly into literary obscurity.
The magnitude of Clare’s achievement and poetic genius was not fully appreciated until the recent publication of a first complete edition of his poetry, much of which had remained neglected in manuscript archives for 150 years. Now scholars worldwide regard him as one of our leading poets gradually affording the same status as reputed poet contemporaries such as William Wordsworth and S.T.Coleridge.
Clare’s birthplace and family home for many years was acquired by the John Clare Trust in 2005. Its transformation into an education and visiting centre celebrates Clare’s life and inspires visitors to share in his creativity, his passion for nature and the countryside and his environmental engagement.
The cottage restoration used traditional building methods and tells the story of Clare’s life and work, recreating a number of rooms as Clare and his family would have known them, while also providing space for workshops and practical activities. The new build houses the shop, cafe and toilets. The garden transformation allows visitors to encounter the food and flowers of an early nineteenth-century cottage garden and to share Clare’s passionate knowledge of the world around him.
Visitors are encouraged to use the cottage as the base for guided explorations of the varied local countryside.